President: William Henry Harrison

9th President of the United States, 1841-1841

Biography Read: “The Life of Major-General William Henry Harrison” (1840) by Isaac Rand Jackson

Key Facts: Whig Party Member. Born Feb 9th, 1773 in Virginia. Died one month after becoming President.

Notable Observations:

  • William Henry Harrison’s father was Benjamin Harrison, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Benjamin Harrison served as governor of Virginia and other offices. In 1791, he was unanimously elected to the Legislature and died the next day.
  • William Henry Harrison was 16 when his father died.
  • He went to Hampden Sydney College.
  • At age 19 he joined the army to “defend our frontier from the invasion of the Indians.”
  • He referred to Native Americans as either “Indians” or “Savages” which was the common term in his day.
  • He married “the daughter of John Cleves Symmes, the celebrated founder of the Miami Settlements.” The book doesn’t give his wife a name or a name to any females. However, his wife’s name was Anna.
  • George Washington appointed him Secretary of the northwestern Territory.
  • Western lands were for sale at the time in 4000+ acre lots. This made land available only to the wealthy. When Harrison was elected to Congress at age 25, he formed a committee that introduced a bill to reduce the size of the sections to 640 acres with quarter and half sections available. This is the grid system which is still used in most of the Western USA today. It also cause the movement of millions to the West.
  • Harrison was the first Governor of Indiana (the territory which included Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa).
  • Harrison was a slave owner, but also claimed to be against slavery. (Not from the book)
  • Harrison’s Grandson was the 23rd President of the United States. (Not from the book)
  • Harrison believed the following about the Presidency:
    1) It should be confined to a single term.
    2) There should be no control over “the public treasures”.
    3) There should be no attempt to influence elections.
    4) That the Veto should be used only for Unconstitutional Bills and those that encroached on the rights of the State or Individual.
    5) That the Executive Department shouldn’t make laws.

This biography was interesting because it was actually written the year before he was elected President. The desire of the author was clearly to campaign for William Henry Harrison for President and the language used to describe his life was overly bombastic. It made me question the accuracy of the information and it is safe to say at a minimum that the author didn’t attempt to cover any potential negatives about the future President.

According to the previous biography on Martin Van Buren, President Harrison died one month after taking office. He died after getting sick giving an Inaugural speech.

Casey Ryan Richards

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